That time Israel boldly flew F-15s through the air spaces of five Arab countries

by Paul Iddon.

In October 1991, less than a year after the Gulf War at least two Israeli F-15 Eagle air superiority jet fighters took off from Israel and made a round-trip that violated the air spaces of five Arab countries before returning home (see figure at right).

The F-15s first flew north over the Mediterranean Sea, then over northern Lebanon and through Syrian airspace before slowing down over the airspace of western Iraq where they reportedly searched, with their reconnaissance cameras, for any Iraqi surface-to-surface Scud missiles before then heading home through Saudi Arabian and Jordanian airspace.

An Iraqi complaint to the United Nations claimed that four Israeli F-15s were involved in the overflight. It also said the planes flew at low altitude when crossing the Syrian border to Iraq before then climbing “to more than 20,000 feet” and flying “over the region of Al-Qa’im and Al Walid in western Iraq”.

While news reports at the time cited intelligence services for the route taken by the Israelis one George H.W. Bush administration official claimed the Israelis flew straight through Jordan for the operation. However, the reported aforementioned route makes a little more sense since it entailed flying through the air spaces of each country once. After all, this incident came before Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1994. Amman had claimed in 1991 that if Israeli warplanes crossed their territory to try and bomb Iraq they would attempt to shoot them down. If the Jordanians were serious then running the risk of crossing through their airspace twice to western Iraq would have increased the risk that the Israeli jets would have been targeted.

Two Israeli F-15 'Baz' variants.

Two Israeli F-15 ‘Baz’ variants.

The reconnaissance mission served as an apt reminder of the impressive capabilities of the Israeli Air Force (IAF). It came six years after eight Israeli F-15s conducted an airstrike from almost 2’000 km away against the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) headquarters in Tunisia (Operation Wooden Leg) and ten years after the daring Israeli airstrike on the Iraqi Osirak nuclear facility in Baghdad (Operation Opera).

Another similar operation would take place in September 2007, when the Israeli Air Force bombed a suspected Syrian nuclear site at al-Kiba (Operation Orchard).

The October 1991 overflight is retrospectively interesting for its length, nature and the number of air spaces the planes managed to violate without getting shot down. Israel did not participate in the Gulf War earlier the same year under pressure from Washington, which feared that an Israeli retaliation to Iraqi Scud missiles attacks against two of their major cities (Tel Aviv and Haifa) in January could fragment the coalition of Arab countries the Bush administration had assembled to remove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait. Saddam clearly intended to provoke Israel into retaliating for the same reason.

A total of 39 Scuds were fired at Israel during that war, resulting in over a thousand injuries (mostly caused by flying glass and panic attacks) but astonishingly only two direct deaths. In order to placate the Israelis from retaliating US-led coalition warplanes were diverted to fly low and scan the western Iraqi desert for mobile launchers while British Special Air Service (SAS) also searched for them on the ground.

Before and after satellite images of the Syrian nuclear reactor at al-Kibar, which was struck by Israel in 2007.

Before and after satellite images of the Syrian nuclear reactor at al-Kibar, which was struck by Israel in 2007.

Lawrence Eagleberger, briefly Bush’s secretary of state, became so convinced that they could not dissuade the Israelis from retaliating that he reportedly sought to influence Israeli leaders on how to retaliate. Instead of Israeli F-15 or F-16s flying to Iraq to bomb Baghdad alongside the coalition, where they might have ran the risk “of a direct air force clash with Jordan or Saudi Arabia”, Eagleberger urged the Israelis to retaliate only using their own surface-to-surface Jericho missiles against Iraq.

There were many suggested reasons as to why Israel did not do this: ranging from the fact Iraq was already being pulverized by the coalition and that an Israeli missile attack might not have even been noticed, to the fact Jericho strikes alone were unlikely able to single-handedly eliminate the Scud threat.

Authors Yossi Melman and Dan Raviv give another reason in their 1994 book “Friends in Deed: Inside the US Israel Alliance. The authors summarize how the Bush administration urged Israel to use Jericho’s to retaliate against Iraq, if the Israelis concluded they had no choice but to attack Iraq, and add another reason Israel didn’t opt to use these weapons.

“What the US officials didn’t know at the time was that the Jericho missiles – which Israel to this day has not admitted to possessing – were not fully operational, and thus Israel did not have a ready option for an unmanned strike against Baghdad,” recalled Melman.

Having sat out the Gulf War and endured the wrath of Saddam’s Scuds Israel’s October 1991 flyby across the region was quite bold and daring and may well have been its not so subtle way of once again demonstrating its military prowess and its reach against potential enemies.

Posted in English, History, Israel, Paul Iddon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

IAF Su-30MKI Deploy to Hasimara

Commercial imagery from December 2017.

Commercial imagery from December 2017.

Due to ongoing tensions with China, the Indian Air Force has deployed a flight of at least four Su-30MKI Flanker multi-role fighter to Hasimara, the nearest Indian airbase to the recent Doklam standoff. Commercial imagery first captured the aircraft in October but it’s possible they may have arrived earlier. Imagery in August 2017 shows that workers covered the alert revetments on both ends of the runway preventing EO observation. Given regional basing, the aircraft likely arrived from neighboring Tezpur where a full squadron is reportedly deployed.

The advanced fighters join the IAF’s MIG-27ML/UPG at the strategic location. The ground attack aircraft are reportedly operated by No 22 Squadron. The overall number of MIG-27ML/UPG operated from the airbase recently decreased in 2016 when the previously co-located No 18 Squadron was decommissioned. The older non-operational airframes remain parked south of the runway.  Domestic news in December reported that 22 Squadron would also be decommissioned. However, the swing-wing aircraft could still be viewed on the main parking apron and in nearby revetments in January.

Short on aircraft, Hasimara is expected to receive new deployments with discussions in the Indian press suggesting one of India’s Dassault Rafale squadrons. Unfortunately, the first batch of the French-built aircraft is not expected to arrive until 2019. Until the Rafale are inducted, the SU-30MKI rotations will likely continue in order to help close the gap of operational assets at the airbase. Imagery captured the Flanker still parked on the apron  in December 2017.

In the meantime, imagery continues to show a heavy People’s Liberation Army (PLA) ground presence east of the Doka La border crossing and in areas that could reinforce troops in the disputed Bhutanese territory. Beyond ground forces, China also continues to maintain larger numbers of fighter aircraft at regional airbases near the standoff and has improved infrastructure at key airbases.

Bottom Line: The Su-30MKI rotations will likely remain a stop-gap until the border airbase is re-equipped with new aircraft.

Posted in Armed Forces, China, English, India, Intelligence | Tagged | Leave a comment

India’s Strategic Situation in Doklam: a Rout or a Rut?

by Paul Pryce. With degrees in political science from both sides of the pond, Paul Pryce has previously worked as Senior Research Fellow for the Atlantic Council of Canada’s Canadian Armed Forces program, as a Research Fellow for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and as an Associate Fellow at the Latvian Institute of International Affairs. He has also served as an infantryman in the Canadian Forces.

As has now been well-documented, the Chinese military’s attempts to construct a road through the Doklam Plateau, an area disputed between China and Bhutan and located near the tri-border region with India, led to a standoff between Chinese and Indian forces between June and August 2017. Although no fire was exchanged between the two sides, a melee apparently ensued on August 15, when Indian authorities allege some Chinese troops strayed across the border with India amid bad weather conditions, and several soldiers on both sides were injured. Talks between India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China’s President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the September 2017 BRICS summit in Xiamen, China seem to have reduced tensions.

Chinese Xinqingtan / ZTQ-105

Chinese Xinqingtan / ZTQ-105

However, both Indian and Chinese troops reportedly continue to patrol the area, leaving significant potential for renewed hostilities in the future. Such a scenario has made military planners in New Delhi keenly aware of how ill-prepared the Indian Army is for mountain warfare against the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Following successful trials in June 2017, China has begun manufacturing as many as 300 units of the Xinqingtan (literally “New Light Tank”) or ZTQ-105. Armed with 105-millimetre gun, this tank is also expected to be equipped with a 35-millimeter grenade launcher and a 12.7-millimeter machine gun. Specifically designed for reconnaissance and infantry support operations in mountainous terrain, the Xinqingtan contrasts with the Indian Army’s own current armour capabilities: cumbersome Russian-designed T-72 and T-90 tanks, as well as the domestic Arjun tank.

In short, the Indian Army has developed its armoured capabilities on the assumption that any future conflict would be with Pakistan and thus on relatively level terrain, on which the T-72, T-90, and Arjun tanks would excel. Recognizing that any escalation in the Doklam Plateau, or anywhere else on its largely mountainous border with China, would leave Indian ground troops at a substantial disadvantage, India’s Ministry of Defence is developing its requirements for a new light tank. This would apparently entail a tank weighing approximately 22 tonnes, capable of operating at altitudes of more than 3,000 metres and in hilly terrain, while also having the capacity to penetrate heavily armoured targets at distances of more than two kilometres. Importantly, the Indian requirements also include the capacity to fire guided missiles, which is a capability some have speculated that the Xinqingtan also enjoys.

Royal Thai Army Stingrays on the move to the Thai-Cambodian border during clashes at Phra Viharn Temple in 2010 (for more information about the Stingray see here).

Royal Thai Army Stingrays on the move to the Thai-Cambodian border during clashes at Phra Viharn Temple in 2010 (for more information about the Stingray see here).

There are few tank models currently produced which match India’s requirements. Beyond the Xinqingtan, Textron Marine & Land Systems has produced several variants of its Stingray light tank since 1989. Still employed extensively by the Royal Thai Army (according to the Military Balance 2017 66 of this light tanks are still in service), the Stingray would bring the needed firepower and maneuverability to support Indian infantry but would also require some modification to suit the terrain conditions in which India expects this light tank to operate. Meanwhile, attempting to modify some of the Indian Army’s current inventory of infantry fighting vehicles or armoured personnel carriers would be a non-starter: the BMP-2 Sarath does not have sufficient firepower and has too heavy a chassis to match the maneuverability of the Xinqingtan. More likely, it will be left to the Indian defence industry to develop an entirely new model of light tank.

This suggests that the capability gap in the Doklam Plateau will persist for at least the next several years. The design of a new light tank meeting the Indian Army’s requirements will take some time, and it is unclear whether the Heavy Vehicles Factory in Chennai will be able to accommodate any major new orders while manufacture of the remaining Arjun tanks is underway. With President Xi’s remarks at the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China heralding an even more assertive foreign policy, it is entirely possible that the PLA will press its advantage in the tri-border region with India and Bhutan, continuing the work on the road that triggered the original months-long standoff.

Other disputed border areas between India, China and Pakistan.

Other disputed border areas between India, China and Pakistan.

For India, the coming years will need to be devoted toward shoring up “soft power” overseas and enhancing any regional mechanisms for conflict prevention. Quite promising in this regard, the 10th round of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) was held in last November in Beijing and allowed for some discussion between the two sides about confidence-building measures (CBMs). This could encompass reciprocal site visits and inspections, in order to demonstrate that neither side seeks to build up their military presence in the border region, and advance notice of any military drills near the Doklam Plateau. Whether China can commit to such measures, however, remains to be seen; India itself has hampered negotiations in the past by linking any agreement on CBMs to a clarification of the “Line of Actual Control” (LAC). This is the demarcation line that separates Indian-controlled territory from Chinese-controlled territory in Jammu and Kashmir but also serves, in a broader sense, as the de facto land border between China and India.

Given the severity of India’s strategic position in Doklam and other mountainous areas on the border with China, it may be advisable for Indian policymakers to revise their negotiating position. Namely, establishing and implementing CBMs – effectively achievements at the level of “low politics” – would give momentum toward an agreement at the level of “high politics” on the LAC. Continuing to pursue the current negotiating strategy will only allow China to equivocate and delay until it is in a position to “change the reality on the ground”, so to speak, by completing construction on the road through Doklam.

Posted in China, English, India, Pakistan, Paul Pryce, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why Iraq’s Assyrians took up Arms

by Austin Michael Bodetti. He is an analyst and journalist specializing in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has a comedic email list about the Middle East that you can join here.

A Dwekh Nawsha militia member sits on top of a tombstone inside a 200-year-old monastery in the Christian village of Bakufa, 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) north of Mosul, Iraq in November 2014 (Photo: Bram Janssen).

A Dwekh Nawsha militia member sits on top of a tombstone inside a 200-year-old monastery in the Christian village of Bakufa, 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) north of Mosul, Iraq in November 2014 (Photo: Bram Janssen).

Whether intentional or not, the Middle East has spent over a millennium Arabizing and Islamizing its peoples. Few know the consequences of this phenomenon better than the Assyrians of Iraq, who have had to contend with Arab nationalists and Islamists since the Rashidun Caliphate overran Mesopotamia, known to Arabs as “the Land of Two Rivers”. In response to the rise of the Islamic State (IS), thousands of Assyrians have thought to arm themselves in self-defense. While they today point their guns at jihadis, enemies whom Iraqis and Westerners too consider terrorists, the Assyrians could tomorrow use their weapons to uphold the sovereignty that generations of Iraqis have denied them.

Militias have thrived across the country since the Iraq War, but Assyrian militias have evolved only in the last few years. One of the first, Dwekh Nawsha, appeared in late 2014 to defend a northern village against IS. Composed of seventy volunteers supported by Iraqi Kurdistan, Dwekh Nawsha helped the Kurds expel the militants from part of the Assyrians’ historical homeland (Associated Press, “Christians Reclaim Iraq Village from ISIS“, CBS News, November 13, 2014). Small in comparison to its Kurdish and Shia counterparts, whose fighters numbered in the tens of thousands, the Assyrian militia nonetheless saw IS’s expansion as an existential threat: whereas the Kurds and Shias kept most of their territory, the Assyrians lost much of theirs. Dwekh Nawsha soon became an international cause célèbre, attracting volunteers from as far as North America (Rebecca Collard, “Meet the Americans Who Have Joined an Iraqi Militia to Fight ISIS“, Time, May 27, 2015). Competitors such as the Nineveh Plains Protection Units benefitted from Dwekh Nawsha’s fame (Steven Nelson, “Iraqi Christians Form Anti-ISIS Militia, and You Can Legally Chip in“, US News and World Report, February 6, 2015). The fortitude and popularity of the Assyrian militiamen, however, belied how much they had lost and suffered over the preceding centuries and decades. The Assyrians, like other Middle Eastern Christians, were fighting not to win but to survive.

Preceding Muslims by millennia, Assyrians feel proud of their history. They take their name from Assyria and trace their heritage as far back as Babylon and the Code of Hammurabi; Iraq itself reflects this history in Babil Governorate, an administrative division just south of Baghdad (Mordechai Nisan, “Minorities in the Middle East: A History of Struggle and Self-Expression“, 2nd ed., Jefferson: McFarland and Company, 2002, p. 181). The Assyrians share some elements of their religion and terminology with their Muslim neighbors. Middle Eastern Christians, Jews, and Muslims describe God — the same god to them all — with similar superlatives (Bernard Lewis, “The Multiple Identities of the Middle East“, New York: Schocken Books, 1998, p. 25). The caliphates, though, threatened the Assyrians as the Byzantine and Sasanian Empires never had. Unlike Christianity and Zoroastrianism, Islam forced the Assyrians to accept second-class citizenship or convert; Byzantium and Persia, on the other hand, had more less allowed them to keep to themselves. Facing pressure from Shias to the east and Sunnis to the north and south, Assyrians took refuge in the remote mountains between Anatolia, Mesopotamia, and the Tigris (Nisan, p. 183). They settled in Nineveh, a historical region where tens of thousands of Assyrians lived before IS’s Iraqi conquests. The now-minority religion began a long history of learning to avoid or resist the danger presented by the majority, continuing to this day.

Map of the Neo-Assyrian Empire and its expansions between 824 BC and 671 BC.

Map of the Neo-Assyrian Empire and its expansions between 824 BC and 671 BC.

After the Sykes–Picot Agreement partitioned the Middle East between several states dominated by Arabs and Muslims, the Assyrians found themselves in Iraq. In some ways, the new country might have helped Assyrians define a national identity that they had lacked under the Rashidun, Umayyad, Abbasid and Ottoman Caliphates: Middle Eastern countries’ adoption of conscription brought all their citizens, including Christians, closer to the state, allowing Assyrians to acquire nominal equality absent from the Islamic states of the Middle Ages (Lewis, p. 94). Even so, Arab nationalists such as Saddam Hussein saw and targeted Christians as outliers. In keeping with the traditions of a one-party state, Ba’athist Iraq denied the Assyrians rights and tried to Arabize them (Nisan, p. 190). Even the Iran–Iraq War, which might have united all Iraqis against Iran regardless of ethnicity or religion, only helped Hussein reinforce Iraq’s Arab, Islamic identity in the face of his Persian enemies (William L. Cleveland and Martin Bunton, “A History of the Modern Middle East“, 6th ed., Boulder: Westview Press, 2016, p. 444). The American invasion, meant to establish democracy and equality in Iraq, fared little better. Iraq’s democratic but impotent postwar government promoted implied sectarianism, favoring Shia, Sunni, and Kurdish politicians at the expense of Christian ones (Cleveland and Bunton, p 527). The Iraqi Security Forces, once effective and powerful under Hussein, came to depend on the Americans to function at the most basic level. The Assyrians, meanwhile, have no one on whom to rely.

The behavior of this minority religion in the Iraqi Civil War contrasts with the experiences of their counterparts in Lebanon and Syria. In the 1990s, the Christian militias of the Lebanese Civil War alternated between cooperating with Israel and Syria, two foes that sought to transform Lebanon into a puppet state; now that Israel and Syria have retreated from Lebanon, Hezbollah still counts many Christian politicians as its allies. During the Syrian Civil War, Christians have aligned themselves with a government itself run by a minority, the Alawis. In Lebanon, minority religions could take advantage of a proxy war. In Syria, they are making common cause with a dominant minority. Iraq offers neither. Instead, the Assyrians have turned to the Kurds and the Shias, who experienced their own massacres at the hands of Hussein. The Peshmerga, Iraqi Kurdistan’s military, oversees several Assyrian militias (Adam Lucente, “Iraqi Christian Militia Draws Foreign Fighters“, Al-Monitor, July 24, 2015). The Imam Ali Brigade, an Iranian-backed Shia militia, sponsors at least one (Samuel Smith, “Sending Weapons to ‘Christian Militias’ in ISIS War in Iraq Is ‘Bad Idea’, Chaldean Patriarch Warns“, The Christian Post, May 25, 2016). Hussein saw the Kurds and Shias, like the Assyrians, as non-Arab, non-Sunni enemies of Ba’athist Iraq. Whether sympathizing with the goals of the Kurds and Shias or not, the Assyrians realize that they need whatever allies they can get. Otherwise, they may find that Arab nationalists and Islamists have succeeded in running them out of Iraq.

Now that the Assyrians have soldiers and weapons at least, they can perhaps exercise more autonomy under the preoccupied politicians of Erbil than they ever enjoyed under the caliphal central governments of Mecca, Damascus, Baghdad, and Constantinople. In fact, self-defense may prove the Assyrians’ best chance of maintaining what little heritage and territory they have left. That strategy worked for the Christians of Lebanon and Syria. The international community will have to watch what it does for the Assyrians of Iraq, among the forgotten minorities of the Middle East.

Posted in Austin Michael Bodetti, English, Iraq, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Market review: Ground-based air defense

This is the updated version from the German article, published at the end of October 2017.

The Swiss army’s ground-based air defenses (GBAD; in Switzerland called BODLUV) is rather outdated. The effective altitude is with about 3,000 m above ground level too low; the same applies to range and also ineffectiveness against guided missiles as well as artillery projectiles. Nowadays, this is hardly acceptable. A new system should be able to succesfully combat any type of flying object, including drones, guided missiles, and artillery projectiles, at any time of day in any weather up to an altitude of about 15 km and a range of around 50 km. Such a system should have a coverage area around 6,000 square kilometers. In addition, it should be easily integrated into the current system of sensors, effectors, guidance systems, airfields, communication equipment and aircraft; not only should it be transportable but also mobile deployable, as cheap as possible (max. 800 million CHF) and politically innocuous.

The Swiss Army’s catalog of requirements is very high. Currently, hardly a single system fulfills all these requirements, which was ultimately a factor in the suspension of the BODLDUV 2020 project by the head of the Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sport, Guy Parmelin. In July 2017, after the suspension, Parmelin announced that the project for ground-based air defense should be reinitiated. Therefore, in this article, we want to review the market: which modern ground-based air defense systems exist, what characteristics do they have and which systems could make it onto a Swiss Army short list?

MANTIS from Rheinmetall Defense

MANTIS from Rheinmetall Defense

MANTIS from Rheinmetall Defense
Rheinmetall’s MANTIS is a further development of the Skyshield (with GDF-007 cannons), which itself is a further development of the Oerlikon 35 mm twin cannon (GDF-005), which is currently in use in Switzerland. As the name MANTIS (Modular, Automatic and Network capable Targeting and Interception System) suggests, improvements have been made, especially in the integration of external sensors. In addition to aircraft and helicopters, MANTIS will also be effective against drones, guided missiles, and artillery projectiles. By default, the system is designed for close-range engagement of targets; however, coverage could be significantly increased by integrating medium and long range radars. Also new is the use of AHEAD ammunition, which consists of 152 sub-projectiles made from a tungsten alloy (3.3 g per sub-projectile), which are released 10-30 m from the target and form a “cloud”. Thus, a target can be destroyed by approximation, which increases effectiveness.

The system includes a control and fire control unit, two radar sensors, and up to four GDF-020 35 mm cannons per sensor (the German Bundeswehr appears to use only three cannons per sensor). For a 24/7 operation, 16 soldiers are needed in the control and fire control unit and another 20 soldiers are responsible for maintenance and loading. The supplied radar sensors should be able to detect a target the size of a tennis ball at a maximum distance of 20 km. Even though MANTIS appears to be very effective in close range combat, it cannot meet the Swiss Army’s range requirement: slow or low maneuverable aircraft can be successfully engaged up to only 5 km, the remaining targets up to 3 km. The area coverage is modest at around 1 square kilometer. MANTIS is thus suitable for defending specific targets, but not for covering areas. In addition, the system components are transportable, but not mobile. The price of a system should be around 138 million euros.

Actually, MANTIS was planned from 2011 on for the protection of German bases in Afghanistan. Nothing came of it. Officially, it was said in September 2011 that rocket fire had decreased and that protective measures such as bunkers were greatly improved. However, it could also have been due to the system lacking precision and problems with the segmenting rate of the AHEAD ammunition at that time. Finally, at the end of November 2012, MANTIS was handed over to the Air Defense Missile Group 61 (Flugabwehrraketengruppe 61) of Air Defense Missile Wing 1 (Flugabwehrraketengeschwader 1). According to Military Balance 2017, the Bundeswehr has two MANTIS systems and no systems have been exported so far. As of November, one of the systems – respectively only its sensor units and control system – were deployed to the Camp Castor in Mali as a warning device, so that troops under fire could quickly make it to safety.

RAPIDfire from Thales

RAPIDFire from Thales

RAPIDFire from Thales
Thales’ RAPIDFire is a newer system that was tested by the French Army in 2011 and presented to the public in 2012 at Eurosatory. Later, in 2016, Thales presented a sea-based version of the system at Euronaval 2016: the RAPIDSeaGuardian.

Similar to MANTIS, RAPIDFire belongs in the category of the very short-range protection systems and is especially suitable for defending specific targets. In addition to conventional flying objects, as well as drones, guided missiles, artillery projectiles, the system can also be used against ground targets. AHEAD ammunition with 200 sub-projectiles (each 3.3 g per projectile) made from a tungsten alloy is used against air targets (operational distance: max. 4 km). Against unarmored ground targets, general purpose round-air burst ammunition (max. operational distance 2.5 km) are used, armor-piercing fin-stabilized discarding-sabot is used against armored ground targets (max. operational distance 1.5 km). The system should also be able to use separately acquired STARStreak guided missiles, with which air and ground targets can be engaged up to a maximum of 7 km. In addition to a maximum of four fire units, a complete system also includes a CONTROLMaster 60 as a command and control unit as well as a 3D GROUNDMaster 60 radar, which can detect potential air targets between max. 40-80 km.

All components of the RAPIDFire are not only mobile, but are designed for use during transportation (for example, for self-protection). Six soldiers are needed for a 24/7 mission. In terms of range, the system does not meet the Swiss Army’s requirements.

SAMP/T from Eurosam

SAMP/T from Eurosam

SAMP/T from Eurosam
SAMP/T (Surface-to-Air Missile Platform/Terrain) from EUROSAM (66% MBDA and 33% Thales) is also a newer European system that can fend off conventional flying objects, including drones, guided missiles and artillery projectiles. The French Air Force tested SAMP/T in February 2011 and then deployed it at the G8 Summit (May 26-27, 2011) in Deauville. Since June 2012, the first Italian regiment has been equipped with the system and on March 6, 2013, both the French and Italian systems were deployed by NATO (“SAMP/T Mamba Aster 30 surface-to-air defense missile system technical data sheet pictures video“, Army Recognition, 08.04.2013). According to Military Balance 2017, the French Air Force has 9 systems, Italy has 16 systems.

As a medium-range ground-based air defense system, Aster 30 Block 1 anti-aircraft missiles are deployed by default to engage a target. This is a two-stage solid rocket 4.9 m in length weighing 450 kg, with the fragmentation warhead accounting for 15 kg, and has an impact and proximity fuse. This allows a conventional flying object to be targeted at a distance of min. 3 km and max. 120 km (unofficially 160 km) and an altitude of up to 20 km – it seems, however, that ballistic missiles can only be destroyed up to a maximum distance of 15 km. The Aster 30 is to be modernized with the block 1 NT (New Technology) and thus the range can be increased. This should be able to intercept ballistic missiles within a distance of 1.5-600 km. However, the development will not be completed before 2023 – delivery could take place in 2024.

The system includes four to six transporter erector launcher with eight Aster 30 and at least one command and control unit, a vehicle with an “Arabel” radar (the use of other radar types is possible) and a transporter with an electric generator. If equipping the transporter erector launcher with new missiles after a mission is to be possible, then further vehicles with hydraulic cranes and reserve missiles are necessary. The system is mobile – but the hydraulic stabilizers have to be extended for use. Fourteen soldiers are required for its operation.

At first glance, SAMP/T seems to meet the Swiss Army’s requirements with only a few drawbacks. At least three systems would be necessary for an almost nationwide protection (coverage of 30,000 square kilometers per system). For financial reasons, the previous model Aster 15 guided missiles could be used, which, however, with a range of 1.7-30 km (unofficially 50 km) have a much smaller coverage area. The fact that the booster is jettisoned during flight to the target, however, is not without its own problems in built-up terrain. The price of a Aster 15 is about 1.7 million CHF, an Aster 30 could probably cost more than 2 million CHF and about half a billion CHF has to be budgeted for the entire system.

IRIS-T SLM from Diehl Defense
Diehl Defense’s IRIS-T SLM is an air defense system based on the IRIS-T SL guided missile, which is nearing operational readiness. The IRIS-T SL guided missile represents the ground-air variant of the IRIS-T, which has a stronger rocket motor and therefore can travel up to 40 km and reach an altitude of 25 km. This should allow for a coverage of 5,000 square kilometers per system. The IRIS-T SL missile will also be used in other projects in the future, such as the further development of the Patriot system (see below).

IRIS-T SLM from Diehl Defence

IRIS-T SLM from Diehl Defence

All components of the system are integrated in standardized 20-foot ISO container frames and can thus be moved independently of the type of carrier vehicle. By default, IRIS-T SLM is delivered with a CEAFAR 3D multifunction radar from CEA Technologies, however the use of other sensors is possible. Also part of the system is a tactical operations center, which can be operated by two soldiers. The transporter erector launcher can hold 8 missiles and should be fully automatic, leveled and ready to fire in 10 minutes. When fired at a target, the missile receives target data from the radar, which is updated during the flight via data link. The final tracking to the target is ensured by an infrared seeker. This led to a controversy between Diehl Defence and the Swiss Air Force in the BODLUV 2020 project, which did not want to certify the IRIS-T SL missile for all-weather use (Kurt Grüter, “Administrativuntersuchung im VBS: BODLUV 2020“, 21.09.2016, S. 55ff). Apart from that, the system seems to meet the Swiss Army’s requirements with only a few drawbacks – at least on paper.

MBDA’s CAMM-ER is also under development and a European ground-based air defense system, which is built around a guided missile. The CAMM (Common Anti-Air Modular Missile) exists in four variants: air-air (CAMM (A)), surface-air (CAMM (L)), sea-air (CAMM (M)) and in an “extended reach” version (CAMM-ER). “Extended reach” means that at least a 45 km operational distance should be possible instead of just 25 km – but currently this is not the case. This was criticized in the context of the BODLUV 2020 project: the current missile travels the given 45 km, but then has too little energy to destroy the target (Kurt Grüter, “Administrativuntersuchung im VBS: BODLUV 2020“, 21.09.2016, S. 56). Even the maximum achievable altitude of 10 km is unconvincing in terms of the Swiss Army’s requirements.

Iron Dome from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems

Iron Dome from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems

Iron Dome and David’s Sling from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems
Probably no other air defense system has been put to the test since its operational commissioning (2011) in real operational use as much as Iron Dome by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. By the end of October 2014, the systems deployed in Israel are said to have fired around 1,200 missiles. Iron Dome should have a success rate of almost 90% (“Israeli Firm Adapts Iron Dome for Intercepts at Sea“, DefenseNews, 27.10.2014) – a success rate that is not undisputed among experts.

Iron Dome is a short-range ground-based air defense system designed primarily to defend against short-range missiles and artillery projectiles, but can also destroy other missiles between a distance of 4-70 km and an altitude of up to 10 km. The system can cover a 150 square kilometer area.

The system consists of three components: an EL/M-2084 multi-mode radar produced by Elta and Israel Aerospace Industries, a command and control unit produced by mPrest Systems and a transporter erector launcher with 20 “Tamir” interceptor. Although the individual components can be installed relativ quickly, they must be placed on the ground before use.

Iron Dome can distinguish between protected and unprotected areas, where the impact of a missile will not cause any damage. Depending on the terrain, this can reduce costs, as an interceptor costs around 70,000 US dollars. By contrast, the Israelis usually shoot two interceptors per target to guarantee its destruction. A system costs a total of around 50 million US dollars. All in all, Iron Dome does not meet the Swiss Army’s requirements. In addition, the acquisition of an Israeli system can be expected to result in additional political discussions.

It is unlikely that the range of the Iron Dome will be increased by the further development of the existing interceptor. For a medium-range ground-based air defense system Israel will use another, newly developed system, called David’s Sling, from the same manufacturer. David’s Sling should replace the MIM-23 Hawk and MIM-104 Patriot systems. It is used to fend off traditional flying objects, drones, missiles and artillery projectiles in a range between 40 km and 300 km – so as not to replace Iron Dome, but to complement it. Standard interceptor for David’s Sling (“Stunner”) are available for around one million US dollars each.

David’s Sling is based on the same EL/M-2084 multi-mode radar as Iron Dome, but also comes with a “Golden Almond Battle Management Center” and a number of transporter erector launchers, each of which can be equipped with a maximum of twelve “Stunner” missiles. The system has been operational since April 2017 — so, teething problems cannot be ruled out.

SPYDER from Rafael Advanced Defense Systems
SPYDER is the small, cheaper brother of the Iron Dome. The product name Surface-to-air PYthon and DERby stands for the two variants of the system: short and medium range. The Python 5 guided missile with an operational distance of about 20 km and an operational altitude of 9 km is used in the short range variant, which has been operational since 2004. The Derby guided missile with an operational distance of about 50 km and an operational altitude of 16 km is used in the medium range variant, which has been operational since 2011. Both the Python-5 and the Derby were originally designed as air-to-air guided missiles and later developed as a surface-air variant. They also differ in terminal phase control: in the Python 5, this is done via an infrared sensor, which may make them sensitive to weather conditions; the Derby uses radar. Both variants of the SPYDER system also differ in the type of radar used: an EL/M-2106 ATAR for short range, an EL/M-2084 multi-mode radar for medium range (this radar is also used in Iron Dome). In addition to the radar and the transporter erector launcher, which can accommodate eight missiles, the system also includes a command and control unit from Israel Aerospace Industries.

In addition to the IRIS-T SLM and the CAMM-ER, SPYDER (medium range) was the third system whose effectors were shortlisted in the BODLUV 2020 project. However, Rafael Advanced Defense Systems was not prepared to supply the classified information requested by the Swiss procurement organization, which is why it was removed from the list. All the trials had to be carried out in Israel. In addition, there was no price breakdown on the individual components and the overall system was too expensive (Kurt Grüter, “Administrativuntersuchung Im VBS: BODLUV 2020“, 21.09.2016, S. 40, 90).

MIM-104F (PAC-3) Patriot from Raytheon

MIM-104F (PAC-3) Patriot from Raytheon

MIM-104 Patriot from Raytheon
Raytheon’s MIM-104 Patriot is probably the best-known ground-based air defense system. Raytheon has built more than 220 Patriot fire units and delivered them to customers in 13 nations. However, it is an older system, as evidenced by, among other things, the fact that unlike the other current systems it only covers a 120° area (at least until now — soon, new systems will be equipped with a modern AESA radar, which allows 360° coverage). The first basic version (MIM-104A) went into operation in 1984. An improved version (MIM-104C) with PAC-1 interceptors was used in the Gulf War of 1991 as a protection against Iraqi Scud missiles. At the same time, the successful use of an Anti-Ballistic Missile System was demonstrated, even if its effectiveness remained debatable.

A completely revised version has been in use since 2001 with the MIM-104F. With it two types of interceptors can be used:

  • Raytheon’s PAC-2 interceptor is specialized in targeting conventional flying objects but can also shoot certain ballistic missiles. A transporter erector launcher can accommodate four PAC-2; the range is 3-160 km with a maximum operating altitude of 24 km. One missile costs around 2 million US dollars.
  • Lockheed Martin’s PAC-3 interceptor is more effective against ballistic missiles, but at the expense of the maximum operational distance, which is only 15-45 km. The maximum operating altitude is 15 km. The PAC-3 can destroy the target by a direct hit or by proximity, with the latter variant ejecting 24 tungsten alloy sub-projectiles. The cost per interceptor is approximately 3 million US dollars.

That quadcopter that cost 200 bucks from did not stand a chance against a Patriot. […] Now, that worked, they got it, OK, and we love Patriot missiles, […] [but] I’m not sure that’s a good economic exchange ratio. — US Army General David Gerard Perkins an der 2017 Konferenz der Association of the United States Army, 15’00”.

In the Bundeswehr, a Patriot squadron has a multi-function radar, eight transporter erector launcher, a fire control, a power system and a radio relay with generators and antenna mast system, which can connect multiple Patriot units with up to four radio links over long distances with high redundancy and interference immunity. All subcomponents are loaded onto trucks and mobile operational, but the operational effort is relatively high compared to other systems, personnel intensive (interruption-free operation of a battery, requires up to 100 soldiers) and expensive.

Poland wants to buy eight patriot systems, which is expected to cost 7.6 billion US dollars (apparently not with the new AESA radar for the time being). Poland is following the example of Romania, which is buying seven systems at a price of 3.9 billion US dollars, which should be operational in 2020. Raytheon’s current delivery includes ten Patriot PAC-3 systems for Qatar, which according to SIPRI’s Trade Register cost 7.6 billion US dollars — delivery is to be completed by 2019. In November, Sweden has chosen the Patriot system over Eurosam’s SAMP/T. The procurement volume comprises 1,2 Billion US dollar. The delivery is expected in 2020 and the systems should be operational in 2025 (Missile Defense Project, “Sweden Green-Lights Negotiations to Acquire Patriot System“, Missile Threat, 08.11.2017).

With a coverage of around 5,000 square kilometers per system, Switzerland would also have to dig deep into its wallet when purchasing several systems. Apart from this, the Swiss Army’s requirements are not fully covered. Downing a cheap quadrocopter with a 3 million US dollar missile would inevitably trigger a heated discussion in Switzerland. Otherwise, the costs and returns for Switzerland are disproportionate for this aged system. In addition, Switzerland will hardly be able to benefit from a technology transfer in procurement, since the critical components of the system are delivered as self contained “black boxes” – as usual in US systems.

There are currently two successor projects to replace the Patriot system in the long term:

  • The Patriot Advanced Affordable Capability-4 (PAAC-4) is a variant of the Israeli “David’s Sling”, where Raytheon is involved in the development in addition to Rafael Advanced Defense Systems (see system above).
  • The USA, Germany, and Italy are cooperating with the Medium Extended Air Defense System (MEADS). MEADS should provide 360​​° protection against conventional flying objects, drones, all kinds of weapons, and large-scale rocket and artillery. In its minimum configuration, it should have a multi-function and fire-conducting radar, a command and control unit and at least two fire units. However, the system can also be supplemented by a monitoring radar, a maximum of four fire units and three reloading vehicles. In range it corresponds to the MIM-104F (PAC-3) because it is supported by default on the same interceptors. This will also make MEADS one of the more expensive systems. The Germans, however, have shown that they want to use the IRIS-T SL as a guided weapon in addition to the PAC-3.
S-350E Vityaz from Almaz-Antey

S-350E Vityaz from Almaz-Antey

S-350E Vityaz and S-400 from Almaz-Antey
The S-350E Vityaz from Almaz-Antey is a Russian system, which would bring some political and technical risks with regard to deployment in the Swiss Army. The case of Turkey, which agreed to the purchase of two Russian S-400 Triumf systems at the beginning of September, shows how sensitive the US can get when NATO member states purchase Russian systems. This has further weakened the already tense US-Turkish relations. Of course, Switzerland is not in NATO, and basically it is also free to buy Russian and Chinese systems, but the United States is just as free as to decide to whom they will sell their systems in the future — and Switzerland currently has some of these in service. Not only is Switzerland not a NATO member state, unlike Turkey, its geopolitical importance for the US is insignificant — Switzerland’s armaments policy could come under considerable pressure in the face of an obvious affront. With the current tensions between the Western states and Russia, the procurement of a Russian system, which must be maintained for at least the next 30 years (including supply of spare parts), is an unnecessarily high risk. The risks of successful integration into the current system, which is currently outlined by in the West applied standards, is not to be ignored (e.g. Link 16 or “Plug and Fight“; see also: Metin Gurcan, “US, NATO Wait to See If Russia-Turkey Defense Deal Goes Through“, Al-Monitor, 1 August 2017).

As a replacement for the older S-300PS, the S-350E Vityaz system was already around as a concept at the end of the Soviet Union. However, only when South Korea expressed its interest in the system in 2007 and co-financed the development of a variant specially adapted to its needs (KM-SAM or Cheolmae II), work was taken up on the fire control units, radar components, and carrier vehicles, which differ in the South Korean prototype. The South Korean prototype was completed in 2010, the first field tests were carried out in 2011 and the system reached its operational readiness in 2015. The Russian prototype followed in 2012; by 2020, Russia hopes to be able to produce up to 30 units (Defence Intelligence Agency, “Russia Military Power“, 2017, S. 80).

The South Korean variant of the system: the Cheolmae II.

The South Korean variant of the system: the Cheolmae II.

The performance of the S-350E Vityaz system depends on the type of intercepting guided missile used. The maximum operational distance is between 60 km with a maximum operational altitude of 20 km (9M96E) and 120 km distance at 30 km altitude (9M96E2). The terminal phase control is carried out by means of a built-in radar sensor for both interception guided missiles. These guided missiles can also be used with the S-400 Triumf system, which was also developed by Almaz-Antey. The S-350E Vityaz system consists of at least one 50N6A multi-functional radar, a 50K6A command and control unit and 1-8 50P6 transporter erector launcher, each capable of accommodating 12 guided missiles. The system is mobile and can be operational within 5 minutes.

The S-400 Triumf system (formerly also referred to as S-300PMU-3) includes four different guided missiles: in addition to the two 9M96 guided missiles, the 48N6 (max 250 km operational distance) and the 40N6 (max 400 km operational distance) can be used. The system consists of a 55K6E command and control unit built on a Ural-5323, a 91N6E radar detection system mounted on a MZKT-7930 with a range of 600 km, an additional multi-functional radar with a range of 400 km and up to 12 fire units. Such a system could cover four times the area of ​​Switzerland, but this would create considerable headaches for the states neighboring Switzerland.

A Panzir-S1 mounted on a GM-352 chassis.

A Panzir-S1 mounted on a GM-352 chassis.

Panzir-S1 from KBP Instrument Design Bureau
The Panzir-S1 from KBP Instrument Design Bureau is another Russian system. The first prototype was completed in 1994 and presented at the MAKS in 1995. Due to financial difficulties, further development was delayed and practical tests were not carried out until 2006/2007. Operationally, the system was not introduced until 2012 by the Russian armed forces.

The Panzir-S1 is a system primarily designed for defending a specific target, and is used, among other things, by the Russian armed forces to provide short range defense for operational ground-based air defense systems (S-300/S-400), air bases, and rocket launchers. In addition to air targets, surface targets can also be engaged. The system is not only mobile but designed for use during transport. Many variants are suitable as the carrier vehicle, such as, for example, the KamAZ-6560 8×8 or the MZKT-7930 8×8 (wheeled vehicles) or the GM-352 chassis (track vehicle). The 50 systems purchased by the United Arab Emirates are partly mounted on German MAN SX 45 8×8 trucks.

The integrated radar has a maximal range of 20 km and an altitude of 15 km. Several Panzir-S1 systems can also be networked with one another, with additional radars and with a command and control unit. For the guided missile, 12 two-stage 57E6 or 57E6-E are used per system, which can cover the entire range of the integrated radar (“The Modernization of Russian Ground Force’s Air Defense Assets”, OEWatch 6, Issue 2, Februar 2016, p. 53). In addition, the system has a 2A38M 30mm twin cannon, which can engage targets up to a distance of 4 km and an altitude of 3 km. The operation can be carried out fully automatically, so that no operator is required to engage a close range target (Yuriy Rossolov, “Камчатка под панцирем“, Krasnaya Zvesda, 25 June 2017, translated in OEWatch 7, Issue 7, August 2017, p. 9).

• • •

Post Scriptum: Umkhonto from Denel Dynamics
Following the publication of the article above,
Darren Olivier, Senior Correspondent at African Defense Review, informed me that there is a modern ground-based air defence system from South Africa, based on the Umkhonto-IR short-range guided missile. Therefore, I would like to add this system to our list retrospectively.

Denel Dynamic's ground-based launcher system (GBL)

Denel Dynamic’s ground-based launcher system (GBL)

The Umkhonto-IR has its roots in the development of a guided missile as part of project ZA-HVM in 1993. In the ZA-HVM project, development of a mobile launcher based on a Rooikat chassis was planned, with which the associated short-range guided missiles were to have been fired – but that stage was never reached.

According to Denel Dynamics, the Umkhonto-IR was developed for use on ships and has been deployed on South African Valour Klasse (MEKO A-200SAN) frigates since 2001. One reason for South Africa developing their own system was the high cost of the US Aegis combat system, which the South African armed forces could not afford.

The Umkhonto-IR Block 2 has also been deployed on Finnish Hamina Class missile boats since 2002, and on Finnish Hämeenmaa Class minelayers since 2006. In 2012, Algeria also ordered 100 Umkhonto-IR Block 2 at a price of 61 million US dollars, of which, according to SIPRI’s Trade Register, around half had been delivered by 2016. They are deployed on Algerian El Radii Klasse (MEKO A-200 AN) frigates.

[Regarding Aegis,] we can’t afford the launchers, let alone the missiles — Rear Admiral Johnny Kamerman zitiert in Leon Engelbrecht, “Further Money for GBADS 2“, defenceWeb, 19.07.2011.

A ground-based alternative was first tested using an enhanced version of Block 2 in early October 2013. It can be deployed at distances of up to 20 km and up to 8 km high. Development, however, is not yet complete, and it is thus planned for the Umkhonto-EIR (where EIR stands for “Extended Infrared”), to reach as far as 25-35 km, by virtue of an aerodynamically-shaped head (see Guy Martin, “Denel Dynamics Develops Expendable Nose Cone to Increase Missile Range“, defenceWeb, 23.02.2016).

The Umkhonto-IR/EIR forms the foundation for Denel Dynamics‘ Ground-Based Launcher System (GBL). Like the sea-based version, GBL should be deployed with little effort and maintenance and, if necessary, autonomously. The radar used is a Reutech RSR320 Dual-Band Radar (DBR) XL with a maximum detection range of 80 km and a target tracking range of 40 km, or a Giraffe AMB passive phased-array radar from Saab with a range of 120 km (“Solutions Overview: Denel Air Defence Solutions (South Africa)“, Quwa, 13.09.2017). However, this plays only a minor role, because the intention is to enable the system to be operated with other sensors. One fire unit (stationary or for mobile deployment mounted on a truck) has six guided missiles.

As the term “IR” suggests, final stage guidance to the target is ensured by an infra-red seeker — with all of the associated potential weather-related shortcomings. Depending on the further developmental success of the Umkhonto-EIR, the system will be able to cover an area of ​​between 1,250 and 3,800 km², which does not meet the requirements of the Swiss Army. This may perhaps change in the future, if the range is extended significantly with the Umkhonto-R, which is currently under development and is planned to have a radar seeker. Whether Denel Dynamics really have enough resources in the long run for such an ambitious ground-based air defence system, however, remains to be seen. In the spring of 2016, the manufacturer certainly did not have the necessary capacity to test the Umkhonto-EIR in practical conditions.

Do you have any other potential systems to suggest? Use the comment function bellow for your personal additions.

Posted in Armed Forces, English, International, Switzerland, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Geplantes deutsch-französisches Kampfflugzeug – Rüstungsvorhaben mit grossem Risiko?

von Björn Müller (Facebook / Twitter). Er ist Journalist in Berlin mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheits- und Geopolitik. Dieser Artikel basiert auf dem Manuskript der NDR-Sendung “Streitkräfte und Strategien” vom 03.06.2017 — der dazugehörige Podcast befindet sich hier.

Konzept-Zeichnung eines deutschen Tornado-Nachfolgers (Future Combat Air System) von Airbus.

Konzept-Zeichnung eines deutschen Tornado-Nachfolgers (Future Combat Air System) von Airbus.

Es wäre das Mega-Rüstungsprojekt in Europa für die kommenden Jahrzehnte: Deutschland und Frankreich wollen gemeinsam einen neuen Kampfjet entwickeln. Weitere europäische Länder sollen als Partner gewonnen werden. Einsatzbereit soll das Kampfflugzeug zu Beginn der 2040er Jahre sein. Erste Expertenschätzungen rechnen mit Entwicklungskosten von bis zu 80 Milliarden Euro. Angekündigt wurde das Vorhaben beim deutsch-französischen Ministerrat Mitte Juli in Paris. Frankreichs Präsident Emmanuel Macron damals auf der Pressekonferenz:

Unser Wunsch ist es, eine neue Generation von Kampfflugzeugen zu entwickeln. Warum? Weil diese Projekte sehr aufwendig sind, somit schwer sind für die Streitkräfte unserer Länder, für unsere beiden Regierungen – und weil der Kampfjet exportierbar sein muss. Bis jetzt gibt es zu viele europäische Standards und Qualifikationen. Und manchmal gibt es eine europäische Konkurrenz auf dem internationalen Markt.

Ein unter deutsch-französischer Führung entwickelter “EU-Kampfjet” als Exportschlager – ein ambitioniertes Projekt. Claudia Major, Expertin für Europas Sicherheitspolitik an der Stiftung für Wissenschaft und Politik in Berlin, warnt vor Euphorie:

Inwieweit unterliegen gemeinsam gebaute Projekte den deutschen Rüstungsexportrichtlinien und inwiefern ist das ein Hinderungsgrund für Exporte? Das ist ein Thema, an dem sich auch andere deutsch-französische Industrieprojekte immer wieder reiben; beispielsweise auch die Idee eines deutsch-französischen Kampfpanzers, das KANT-Projekt.

Gerade ein erfolgreicher Export wäre aber essenziell für den angestrebten High-Tech-Kampfjet, denn das Vorhaben will vor allem die Dominanz der USA bei der Luftwaffen-Rüstung brechen. Mit der Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II haben die Amerikaner einen Kampfjet der sogenannten 5. Generation kurz vor der Einsatzreife. Die F-35 ist quasi ein Roboter mit Pilot an Bord. Die Computertechnologie des Kampfflugzeuges kann feindliche Objekte über weite Entfernungen erkennen und den Waffeneinsatz über ein Netzwerk mit anderen Einheiten zu Luft, Land und Wasser abstimmen.

Die Deutsche Bundeswehr soll bis 2030 neue Kampfpanzer bekommen. Bis dahin bleibt Leopard 2 im Einsatz. Die neuste modernisierte Version hat die Bezeichnung “Leopard 2 A7“.

Die Europäer haben diese Entwicklung verschlafen; nur Kampfjets der 4. Generation wie der Eurofighter werden in Europa hergestellt. Die deutsch-französische Neuentwicklung soll dies ändern. Frankreichs Luftwaffenchef General André Lanata hat bei einer Anhörung vor dem Verteidigungsausschuss des französischen Parlaments Ende Juli auf dieses Problem hingewiesen. Wörtlich sagte er damals:

Gegner und Partner modernisieren ihre Luftwaffen zügiger. Die F-35 — ein Tarnkappenjet der neuesten Generation, der gerade in den Dienst mehrerer europäischer Luftwaffen übernommen wird, aber auch durch die australische Luftwaffe — zeigt die Gefahr, deklassiert zu werden. Die F-35 wird in weniger als fünf Jahren der neue Referenz-Standard sein, um an anspruchsvollen Militäroperationen teilzunehmen.

Nun wollen Franzosen und Deutsche mit einem eigenen High-Tech-Jet der 6. Generation die US-Dominanz kontern. Dieser Kurs der eigenen Stärke ist zudem ein Signal an Grossbritannien, meint Claudia Major:

Und damit ist die Entscheidung für dieses europäische, deutsch-französische Projekt eine kleine Absage an London, weil man nämlich sagt: aber seht mal hier; in der Europäischen Union, da werden die Zukunftsentscheidungen im industriellen Bereich beschlossen.

Allerdings scheinen die Franzosen ziemlich auf der Linie der Briten zu liegen, wenn es um militärische Konzepte geht, die aus ihrer Sicht sicherstellen sollen, dass die Luftwaffe auch in Zukunft modern und erfolgreich ist. So vereinbarten Paris und London erst im vergangenen Jahr für ihre Luftstreitkräfte bis 2030 gemeinsam ein sogenanntes Future Combat Air System zu entwickeln. Konkret geht es um eine Mehrzweck-Kampfdrohne; einsetzbar beispielsweise als strategischer Bomber, aber auch für den Luftkampf.

Konzept-Zeichnung von Dassault Aviation über das zukünftige französisch-britische Future Combat Air System. Es basiert auf Neuron von Dassault Aviation und der Taranis BAE Systems.

Konzept-Zeichnung von Dassault Aviation über das zukünftige französisch-britische Future Combat Air System. Es basiert auf Neuron von Dassault Aviation und der Taranis BAE Systems.

Deutschland hat ebenfalls ein Rüstungsprojekt gleichen Namens aufgelegt. Das deutsche Future Combat Air System-Konzept hat jedoch eine andere Stossrichtung. Hier steht ein bemanntes High-Tech-Kommando-Flugzeug im Mittelpunkt, das einen Verbund aus Kampfjets und Drohnen dirigieren soll.

Die Vorstellungen in den europäischen Luftstreitkräften sind also durchaus unterschiedlich. Wie realistisch ist vor diesem Hintergrund das von Macron und Merkel angekündigte gemeinsame Kampfflugzeug? Markus Kerber, Experte für Rüstungswirtschaft an der Technischen Universität Berlin, sieht die Erfolgsaussichten der deutsch-französischen Kampfjet-Kooperation skeptisch:

Die Einsatzwünsche steuern natürlich die technischen Anforderungen. Und diesbezüglich kann es in Deutschland und Frankreich zu erheblichen Divergenzen kommen. Die gab es auch in der Vergangenheit bei sehr viel einfacheren Projekten, wie beispielsweise bei dem gepanzerten Transportfahrzeug. Da hat man nach drei Jahren gemerkt, man kommt nicht zusammen. Ich könnte mir sehr gut vorstellen, dass dieses gross angekündigte Projekt eines gemeinsamen Kampfjets relativ schnell, unüberbrückbare konzeptionelle Divergenzen zwischen Deutschland und Frankreich hervorbringen wird.

Frankreich und Deutschland hatten Anfang der 1990er Jahre einen gemeinsamen Truppentransporter für Landstreitkräfte geplant. Mit Blick auf ihre häufigen Militärinterventionen in Afrika war den Franzosen eine mobile und kampfstarke Variante wichtiger als die Panzerung, auf die wiederum das deutsche Militär grossen Wert legte. Am Ende produzierte jedes Land ein eigenes Fahrzeug. Auch beim angestrebten Kampfjet wird es schwierig, einen gemeinsamen Nenner zu finden.

Anspruch der französischen Militär-Doktrin ist es, als unabhängige Militärmacht handeln zu können. Dafür besitzt das Land weiterhin einen Flugzeugträger und es braucht Kampfflugzeuge, um den Träger nutzen zu können. Die Bundeswehr dagegen schliesst aus, allein und ohne Verbündete in einen militärischen Konflikt einzugreifen. Auslandseinsätze der deutschen Streitkräfte haben immer einen multinationalen Charakter.

Die Zusammenarbeit zwischen zwei so ungleichen Partnern ist naturgemäss schwierig. Statt auf komplizierte Prestigeprojekte zu setzen, sollte die Politik einen anderen Ansatz wählen, sagt der Rüstungsexperte Markus Kerber:

Ich glaube, dass in dem gesamten Projekt “Kampfjet” viel Fantasie, auch zuviel fromme Wünsche stecken. Wir müssen erstmal unsere Hausaufgaben machen bei Produkten, die sehr viel naheliegender sind. Warum man in Deutschland nicht zusammen mit Frankreich Versorgungsschiffe für die Marine vereinheitlicht, ist für mich ein ungelöstes Rätsel. Wir schaffen es momentan zwischen Deutschland und Frankreich nicht einmal, kleine taktische Drohnen zu vereinheitlichen. An der Stelle gibt es Parallelentwicklungen ohne Ende.

Bei Rüstungsprojekten wie Marine-Versorgern für Treibstoff und Munition sowie taktischen Aufklärungsdrohnen ist das Aufgabenfeld klar. Ein gemeinsamer Nenner wäre viel einfacher zu finden, als bei dem High-Tech-Projekt “Kampfflugzeug”. Für dessen Umsetzung gibt es zudem eine weitere Hürde. In der Rüstungsindustrie wird es intensive Verteilungskämpfe geben: Hier stehen sich Airbus und Dassault Aviation gegenüber. Der Airbus-Konzern, an dem auch Frankreich beteiligt ist, entwickelt das deutsche Future Combat Air System und baut u.a. den Eurofighter der Bundeswehr. Der französische Luftfahrtkonzern Dassault Aviation kooperiert bei der Drohnenentwicklung mit Grossbritannien und produziert den Rafale-Jet. Das Kampfflugzeug bildet das Rückgrat der französischen Luftwaffe. Nur diese beiden Konzerne wären in der Lage, ein Mega-Projekt wie den Bau eines Kampfjets der 6. Generation umzusetzen. Das Interesse der Unternehmen ist zweifellos da, denn ein Auftrag würde über Jahrzehnte Milliarden in die Kassen spülen.

Hinderlich könnte allerdings sein, dass es zwischen Frankreich und Deutschland keine gemeinsame Linie bei Exportfragen von Rüstungsgütern gibt. Auch vor diesem Hintergrund ist noch völlig unklar, ob das Rüstungsprojekt eines europäischen High-Tech-Kampfjets unter deutsch-französischer Führung Gestalt annimmt oder wegen seiner zahlreichen Hürden letztlich doch nicht umgesetzt wird.

Posted in Armed Forces, Björn Müller, Drones, France, Germany, International, Security Policy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Personal Theories of Power: Strategie

This article by Nick Prime is part of the Personal Theories of Power series, a joint BridgeCIMSEC project which asked a group of national security professionals to provide their theory of power and its application. We hope this launches a long and insightful debate that may one day shape policy. The graphic and the images in this republished article were selected and added by

The primary aim of the strategist in the conduct of war is some selected degree of control of the enemy for the strategist’s own purpose; this is achieved by control of the patterns of war; and this control of the pattern of war is had by manipulation of the center of gravity of war to the advantage of the strategist and the disadvantage of the opponent. — Joseph Caldwell Wylie, Jr., “Military Strategy: A General Theory of Power Control“, Naval Institute Press, 1989, p. 77-78.

This theory of control, whereby the aim of war is some measure of control over the enemy, and the achievement of this degree of control is the purpose of strategy, was most cogently expressed by U.S. Admiral J.C. Wylie. Its origins however date back to the early 1950s. When Wylie, along with U.S. Admiral Henry Effingham Eccles and German-American historian Dr. Herbert Rosinski, developed a general theory of strategy around this central concept of “control”. While each of the three men’s conceptions of this theory reflected variances in nuance and expression. All three sought to understand the interplay between politics, power, and control. The focus herein will be on the value of this theory as a means to understand strategy as something which exists and is practiced both in the physical and cognitive domains.

Understanding the Terms
A half century ago Wylie remarked that the study of strategy lacked a clear and consistent vocabulary, a statement that is as true today as it was then (Wylie, p. 11). In addition to the many definitions of strategy itself, there are as yet no established definitions for the terms and concepts which serve as the foundational elements for our understanding of strategy. It is important then to provide, in brief, a working conception of these terms so that their interplay can be shown in each domain.

[…] one must keep the dominant characteristics of both belligerents in mind. Out of these characteristics a certain center of gravity develops, the hub of all power and movement, on which everything depends. That is the point against which all our energies should be directed. — Carl Von Clausewitz, “On War”, p. 595.

Perhaps the most simple and practical definition of politics is that provided by Harold Lasswell who defined it as “the way people decide who gets what, when, where, how, and why” (Harold Lasswell, “Politics: Who gets what, when and how?“, World Publishing Company, 1958). Here we see the first unstated but unmistakable emphasis on choice as critical to understanding the concept. Another unstated but clear emphasis is on the role of authority, a crucial element in the practice of politics. As Lawrence Freedman has noted there is a critical interplay between power and authority, with a great deal of debate being had as to whether the two concepts are exclusive or extensions of each other (Lawrence Freedman, “Strategic Studies and the Problem of Power” in Thomas Mahnken and Joseph A. Maiolo, Strategic Studies: A Reader, Routledge, 2014, p. 13). Freedman’s discussion of power in a strategic sense (what he dubs “strategic power”) also emphasizes a duality between physical and cognitive. Though he makes clear distinctions between the physical expression as force (or the capability to use force) and the cognitive expression, what he sees as its perception in the mind of the “target” or “beholder”. While his focus on strategic power is largely on “coercive capacity” the important term there is capacity.

Wylie saw politics as “the allocation, use, transfer of power” a conception which echoes both the interplay between power and authority, while also reflecting an emphasis on capacity (Wylie, p.90). Power then could perhaps best be thought of as energy, capable of existing in various forms such as watts of electrical charge or calories of food. Politics then is the means by which the power of a group, institution, or nation state is marshalled, allotted, and/or directed. Strategy then should be viewed as the mechanism by which the capacity (power) created through politics, is applied towards the aim of a given policy. The assertion of authority or more appropriately, control. Herein lies the subtle but distinct difference between Freedman’s conception of strategy and that of Wylie, Eccles and Rosinski. Freedman defines strategy as “the art of creating power to obtain maximum political objectives using available military means” (Freedman, p. 25).

Rosinski, whose understanding of strategy resembles that previously quoted by Wylie, defined strategy as the comprehensive direction of (military) power, applied through tactics, for the purpose of control (Herbert Rosinski, “The Structures of Military Strategy”, 1956, p. 18f). The difference between Freedman’s theory and the control theory is subtle but significant. By placing the emphasis on strategy’s purpose as being (some measure of) control, they are focusing on the application of power, in contrast to Freedman’s focus on the creation of power.

American soldiers look at the blazing oil wells that were set on fire during the Persian Gulf War.

American soldiers look at the blazing oil wells that were set on fire during the Persian Gulf War.

Control as Cognitive & Physical
In developing their theories of strategy both Wylie and Rosinski placed the bulk of their emphasis on control in the physical domain or “field of action”. As the intention was to establish control as a general theory of strategy, it was critical that theory bear equal relevance to each of the commonly identified “domains” of conflict (land, sea, and air). In each of the respective domains the relevance and contribution towards control was measured when contrasted against destruction. The importance of this distinction is simple but significant. Destruction serves strategy only insofar as it contributes towards the achievement of control.

Implied in this emphasis on control, as opposed to an emphasis on destruction, is the focus on economy of force. By limiting the destruction and focusing it towards asserting a “selected degree” of control over “key centers of gravity” and/or “lines of communication”, control seeks to solve the challenge posed by strategy in the most economical means possible (Wylie, p. 77f; Herbert Rosinski, “New Thoughts on Strategy”, 1955, p. 2). Many theories of strategy lack this critical balancing. Favouring an emphasis on destruction, which can and often does become counterproductive. Strategies premised first on destruction emphasize as the primary means the use of (or through coercion, the threat to use) force. These strategies fail to account for the myriad of other means through which some measure of control, or contributions toward it, can be achieved. Such as political or economic pressures which can contribute towards control, adding to coercion, while curbing destruction only to that which is necessary. As Lukas Milevski noted, “control and coercion run along a single set of tracks: only the living can be threatened and consequently controlled, but they can only be so if, due to the expected cost or due to fear, the choice of continuing is less palatable than that of accommodating” (Lukas Milevski, “Revisiting J.C. Wylie’s Dichotomy of Strategy: The Effects of Sequential and Cumulative Patterns of Operations“, Journal of Strategy Studies, Vol 35, Issue 2, 2012, p. 231).

The remains of an Armenian T-72 destroyed by Azerbaijan in April 2016. The tank was reversing when hit. The ammunition stored inside the vehicle detonated and led to its complete destruction.

The remains of an Armenian T-72 destroyed by Azerbaijan in April 2016. The tank was reversing when hit. The ammunition stored inside the vehicle detonated and led to its complete destruction.

Wylie and Eccles also provide valuable and insightful observations on the cognitive aspects of control. For Wylie, the manipulation of the physical centers of gravity would, through its effect on the “equilibrium” of the conflict, effect the “critical decisions” of the adversary (Wylie, p. 75f). According to Rosinski, strategy became a means of control by taking “into account the multitude of possible enemy counteractions”. (Rosinski, “New Thoughts on Strategy”). Eccles, in expanding on the point made by Rosinski, stressed the importance of a clear understanding of both the strategist’s own objectives and those of his adversary. He viewed this as crucial to the holistic formation of sound strategic action. Understanding that objectives (both the strategist’s own, and those of his adversary) were a critical expression of both the actions and choices, which one had to control through strategy (Henry Effingham Eccles, “Logistics in the National Defense“, Naval War College Press, 1997), p. 25-27; Henry Effingham Eccles, “Military Concepts and Philosophy”, Rutgers University Press, 1965), p. 51).

This emphasis on choice is critical, as Wylie noted, with respect to deterrence-based strategies predicated on the threat to use force. As the coercive effect of this threat to use force is itself a degree of control (Wylie, p. 88). The ability to control by dictating, limiting, or removing the choices of the opponent, is then implicit in the cognitive side of the control theory.

Why It Matters
There is a great deal of value to be derived from understanding this control theory of strategy. This understanding of the control theory allows the strategist to perceive, under the same conceptual framework. Both those physical strategies which utilize and rely on the direct application of force and destruction, to achieve the desired political ends. As well as those strategies of coercion and deterrence, reliant upon other measures to achieve that selected degree of control required for the desired ends of policy. Violence is inherent in the nature of war, but not in the nature of strategy (broadly defined), and certainly not in the nature of conflict.

The character of contemporary conflicts whether diplomatic or political, as illustrated by recent events in both the territorial disputes in the South China Sea or the Annexation of Crimea by Russia, has shown that power can be created and the aims of policy can be achieved through more than the simple application of force. In this regard a framework that applies the same understanding of strategy to achieve a policy through brinkmanship, economic coercion, or the use of military force, is of significant utility.

Posted in Basics, English | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Chinese drones and Russian air defense missiles: Why America’s Middle East allies are shopping elsewhere for some of their weapons

by Paul Iddon.

The United State’s Middle East allies are increasingly using other sources to either purchase weapons which Washington won’t sell or equipment with comparable capabilities to what Washington has to offer. This ranges from drones, which the U.S. doesn’t sell, to sophisticated air defense missiles, which the Russians have shown a much greater willingness to deliver. Shopping elsewhere for these weapons is not only an option for these states to acquire weapons Washington is hesitant to offer them, it is also a way for them to diversify their arsenals, making them less dependent on their U.S. ally for their military needs.

Example of a Chinese-made <a href=

Regarding armed UAVs, the U.K. is the only country the U.S has exported its armed MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones to. Among others, for fear the technology will become proliferated and threaten American interests, Washington doesn’t export these pieces of hardware to other states (Jeremy Page and Paul Sonne, “Unable to Buy U.S. Military Drones, Allies Place Orders With China“, Wall Street Journal”, 17.07.2017).

However, proliferation of these technologies cannot be prevented in the long run. Iran, for example, used technology it acquired from a stealthy American RQ-170 Sentinel drone, which Iranian forces had captured in November 2011 near the city of Kashmar in northeastern Iran, to produce new types of drones for its growing fleet of these unmanned aircraft. Turkey, a U.S. ally, is also making significant headway in building its own weaponized drones after growing fed up of the unreliability of the supply of drone technology from Washington, which had concerns about how Ankara executes its current campaign against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Drones are also showing up in airbases in Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan (Joseph E. Lin, “China’s Weapons of Mass Consumption“, Foreign Policy, 20.03.2015). While these look like Predators they are in fact Chinese copies of that iconic drone, called Wing Loongs, which the Saudis ordered back in 2014, or the CASC Rainbow CH-4, which was exported to Iraq in early 2015. Riyadh and Baghdad clearly were not going to sit idle and wait for the Americans to one day grant them permission to purchase these kind of weapon systems.

As The Wall Street Journal points out this constitutes “a strategic and commercial blow” for the U.S. and is already seeing “American manufacturers and politicians lobby the Trump administration to relax export controls to stop China from expanding market share and undermining U.S. alliances.” After all, having Russia and China as its major competitors in the arms trade basically means that when Washington doesn’t sell a particular weapon to a Middle East country then their competitors can swoop in and seize the deal for themselves.

Russian S-400 long-range air defense missile systems are deployed at Hemeimeem air base in Syria.

Russian S-400 long-range air defense missile systems are deployed at Hemeimeem air base in Syria.

Drones aren’t the only pieces of equipment which Washington’s Middle East allies are shopping for elsewhere. Turkey has long sought to either acquire or develop its own long range air defense missile system. Lack of such a system is a shortcoming it has sought to rectify in recent years, through negotiating a deal to buy FD-2000 missiles (which are basically a copy of the missiles used in the Russian S-300 missile system) from China. American and European companies immediately raised their objections. The deal was ultimately canceled.

Today, the Turks are going ahead with buying the highly sophisticated S-400 missiles system from Russia. This comes after years of being unsatisfied with what the West had to offer in terms of both cost and their refusal to transfer the technology.

Tiny Qatar, a U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf, also expressed interest in purchasing S-400s. The sheikhdom’s Defense Minister Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah even went so far as to saying that: “This is not just the purchase of air defense systems but also technologies. […] We would like to develop this industry and bring this technology to Qatar.”

Qatar is currently under siege from its vastly better-armed Saudi and Emirati neighbours. Delivery of S-400s could seriously threaten neighbouring air forces if they opted to attack Doha. This, coupled with the upcoming delivery of Dassault Rafale jet fighters from France and F-15 Eagles from the U.S. demonstrates that Qatar is interesting in building a highly formidable military from various sources.

Al-Sisi positively glows with happiness as Putin presents him his gift during his visit in Cairo in February 2015: a Kalashnikov.

Al-Sisi positively glows with happiness as Putin presents him his gift during his visit in Cairo in February 2015: a Kalashnikov.

Egypt, which has received billions in U.S. military aid since the early 1980s, has a large military consisting primarily of U.S. hardware, ranging from M1 Abrams tanks and AH-64 Apache gunships to F-16 jets. Since the July 2013 military coup in the country the U.S. has occasionally frozen aid and withheld equipment. Just this August Washington reached a decision to deny $95.7 million in aid to Egypt and withhold another $195 million in response to Cairo’s failure to improve the dire human rights situation in the country.

Given the preponderance of American equipment in its arsenal a total arms embargo against Cairo by Washington could prove catastrophic. Diversification of the sources from which it acquires its arms could well soften such a blow. Cairo has taken some steps in this direction in recent years, buying 24 Dassault Rafale jet fighters from France and reportedly 50 MiG-29 Fulcrums from Russia.

Post-2003 Iraq was long expected to purchase primarily American military hardware. While it has a fleet of American-made M1 Abrams tanks and is taking delivery of F-16 jet fighters it has also shown a big interest in Russian equipment in recent years. The U.S. offer to sell Baghdad AH-64 Apache attack helicopters fell through as Iraq clearly favoured Russian Mi-28 Nighthunters and Mi-35 Hind helicopters. The Russian equipment is cheaper, easier to integrate into the Iraqi military and Moscow doesn’t necessarily care what the Iraqis do with it. Were Baghdad, especially under the leadership of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to have used American helicopters against Sunni Arabs or the Kurds then Washington could have withheld support and spare parts to the fleet, limiting its abilities or even grounding it. Russia, on the other hand, would more likely have looked the other way.

Iraqi army members advance in an old Soviet-made BMP-1, an amphibious tracked infantry fighting vehicle, in Kirkuk, October 16, 2017.

Iraqi army members advance in an old Soviet-made BMP-1, an amphibious tracked infantry fighting vehicle, in Kirkuk, October 16, 2017.

These examples by no means constitute a recent phenomena. In the 1970s the Shah of Iran was permitted to purchase essentially whatever conventional hardware he wanted for Iran’s military from the U.S. He subsequently bought top-of-the-line F-14 Tomcat air superiority jet fighters from the U.S and hundreds of Chieftain main battle tanks from the UK.

When the Americans showed reluctance to sell sophisticated AWACs surveillance planes (capable of detecting aircraft taking off from hundreds of miles away) the Shah said he could simply seek similar Nimrod intelligence-gathering planes from the UK. (Israel would later oppose Washington in the 1980s when they sold the same planes to Saudi Arabia, fearing they could be used to undercut the its military’s technological superiority over its neighbours.)

The Shah’s army also notably had its fair share of Russian and Soviet-made artillery intermixed with Western models. What he lacked, however, was possession of any ballistic missiles. As Iraq began buying Scud missiles from the Soviet Union the Shah wanted to buy Pershing missiles from the U.S. to deter the emerging missile threat from Baghdad. Given the fact they had the capability to carry nuclear weapons Washington refused.

Consequently, Israel became an alternative source that took steps to help Iran establish its own missile force. Israel’s Defense Minister Ezer Weizman had advised Iranian General Hassan Toufanian that: “A country like yours, with F-14s, with so many F-4s, with the problems surrounding you, [must have] a good missile force.” (Trita Parsi, “Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the United States“, Yale University Press, 2008, p. 75). The Israelis and Iranians worked together under Project Flower to develop missiles for Iran in the late 1970s, a program which never realized its potential given the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

The Saudis parading their Chinese-made DF-3 ballistic missiles.

The Saudis parading their Chinese-made DF-3 ballistic missiles.

Interestingly today the Saudi military, armed to the teeth with American-made F-15 Eagles and European Eurofighter Typhoons, acquired its handful of ballistic missiles from China. Riyadh has had Chinese-made DF-3A missiles since the late 1980s and displayed them for the first time in a military parade back in April 2014. More recently the CIA reportedly helped Riyadh buy the more accurate Chinese DF-21 missiles. While Washington didn’t oppose these purchases the Saudis nevertheless found it easier to acquire those kind of weapons from Beijing.

There are different reasons why the U.S. is reluctant to deliver certain military technology to certain states, even allies: prevention of proliferation, safeguarding its own interests and enforcing a certain political behavior are only some of them. Because Russia and China are just waiting to close these gaps the U.S., paradoxically, actually loses leverage over its Middle Eastern allies when it refuses to sell them the hardware they want. Let’s see how long it will take until the Trump administration relaxes these restraints in order to stop Russia and China from expanding their market share and, in the process, undermining U.S. alliances.

Posted in Armed Forces, English, International, Paul Iddon, Proliferation, Security Policy, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fast Friends? Turkey arrives in Somalia

by Paul Pryce. With degrees in political science from both sides of the pond, Paul Pryce has previously worked as Senior Research Fellow for the Atlantic Council of Canada’s Canadian Armed Forces program, as a Research Fellow for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and as an Associate Fellow at the Latvian Institute of International Affairs. He has also served as an infantryman in the Canadian Forces.

Turkey announced on 30 September 2017 the establishment of its largest overseas military base, in the Somali capital of Mogadishu (see video above). The facility, which cost approximately $50 million US, is intended to train 10,000 soldiers for the Somali National Army, which is struggling to maintain security against the threat of al-Shabaab, an affiliate of al-Qaeda that briefly seized power in Somalia and continues to wage an insurgency throughout the region. This move has led some observers to argue that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has adopted a neo-Ottoman foreign policy orientation, seeking to re-establish Turkish dominance in the region that once fell under Ottoman rule. In fact, the motivations behind the Turkish military presence in Somalia are more complex.

There has been some history of Turkish military involvement in the region; for example, NATO’s anti-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden, known as Operation Ocean Shield, have seen the participation of Turkish naval vessels. The construction of the base in Mogadishu, however, began in 2015, as a period of political isolation for Turkey began. In November 2015, a Russian Sukhoi Su-24M attack aircraft was shot down by a Turkish Air Force F-16 fighter jet when the former allegedly violated Turkish airspace near the Syrian border. According to the Russian Federation’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, the incident prompted Russia to seriously re-evaluate its relationship with Turkey. After failing to persuade other NATO member states to invoke Article 5 of the Washington Treaty – the collective defence provision which underpins the trans-Atlantic alliance – in response to security threats on the Turkish-Syrian border, Turkish officials have threatened that their forces would not hesitate to engage in combat against American military advisers that have been deployed to Syria in support of Kurdish paramilitaries.

Clearly, the country’s political elites recognize that Turkey is in dire need of allies, a possible rapprochement with Russia notwithstanding. One possible means by which Turkey can win friends on the international stage, such as votes in favour of its positions in the United Nations General Assembly and other similar bodies, is to enhance its outreach in sub-Saharan Africa.

Baledogle Airfield, Somalia, 17th February 2017: These are two Mil Mi-8 or Mil Mi-8M / Mil Mi-17 helicopters, most probably from the UN. For example "Ukrainian Helicopters“ is not only flying for the UN in Kenya, there are also operating in Somalia.

Baledogle Airfield, Somalia, 17th February 2017: These are two Mil Mi-8 or Mil Mi-8M / Mil Mi-17 helicopters, most probably from the UN. For example “Ukrainian Helicopters” is not only flying for the UN in Kenya, there are also operating in Somalia (see also this video).

The upcoming withdrawal of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) – which saw the deployment of more than 20,000 troops to Somalia from other African states in order to provide security and train the Somali National Army – presented an opportunity for Turkey to secure a foothold on the continent. In 2016, President Erdogan embarked on a flurry of state visits throughout Africa, which included announcements of development assistance projects and business partnerships in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nigeria, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda. Although it is certainly true that all of Turkey’s overseas military bases are located in countries which were under Ottoman rule at one point or another – specifically, Azerbaijan, northern Cyprus, Iraq, Qatar, and now Somalia – Turkey has directed its outreach toward countries beyond that traditional sphere of influence, as evidenced by the fact that, aside from Somalia, none of those African states visited by President Erdogan in 2016 were affiliated with the Ottoman Empire.

Furthermore, it is highly doubtful that the Somali authorities see this new partnership with Turkey as reflecting a neo-Ottoman impulse. Since the ouster of al-Shabaab from Mogadishu, Somalia’s internationally recognized government has sought the assistance of various other countries and institutions, particularly in the military sphere. The European Union has maintained a training mission, first in Uganda and later in Somalia, for the purpose of building the Somali National Army’s capacity to fight militant Islamist groups. The United States also reportedly maintains a limited presence near Mogadishu, at Baledogle Airfield. For its part, Somalia has courted Russia for assistance and arms, while it has also petitioned Saudi Arabia to intervene against the United Arab Emirates’ plans to establish an airbase in the secessionist region of Somaliland.

A member of the Turkish security forces sits inside an armored vehicle near the newly opened Turkish embassy in Mogadishu on June 3, 2016.

A member of the Turkish security forces sits inside an armored vehicle near the newly opened Turkish embassy in Mogadishu on June 3, 2016.

In short, the Turkish base in Mogadishu reflects the search for reliable friends by both sides, rather than some grand design to regional power by Turkey’s political establishment. As Erdogan clamps down on his domestic opposition and girds for potentially renewed hostilities with Kurdish separatists, the support of countries like Somalia, which are also contending with their own secessionist movements, will be valuable. So long as Turkey is able to limit the exposure of its troops in Somalia, Erdogan’s supporters will likely see this as a profitable investment; an attack by al-Shabaab or a similar group on the base, however, would severely undermine public support and very seriously hamper Turkey’s African outreach. That may be the most glaring weakness of Turkish foreign policy under Erdogan: shared interests are impermanent and realpolitik relies on the fickle vagaries of fate, while shared values might afford a more solid foundation for an alliance. According to the text of the Washington Treaty, NATO is based on such shared values as “democracy, individual liberty, and the rule of law”. One would be hard-pressed to name a foundational shared value for the Turkish-Somali alliance.

Posted in English, Paul Pryce, Peacekeeping, Security Policy, Somalia, Turkey | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

China’s Shigatse Gets New Infrastructure

Satellite imagery has revealed some new developments at the Shigatse civil-military airfield, the closest People’s Liberation Army Air Force deployment near the disputed Doklam plateau.

Sentinel 2 imagery captured on 11 November 2017 shows continued progress on a new runway under construction at Shigatse. Initial clearing and leveling activity began in August 2017 for the now 3,000 meter long runway, (visible to the west in the imagery above). The level of new infrastructure activity suggests that Shigatse will be able to host a larger more capable force near the contentious border with India.

In recent months, China has deployed increasing rotations of CAC J-10, SAC J-11, and XAC JH-7 aircraft as well as MI-17-171 Hip and KJ-500 AWAC to the airport. In support, imagery shows eight new helicopter hardstands constructed on the northeast section of the airfield and nine new parking aprons, measuring approximately 3,000 square meters each, built along the parallel taxiway. Additional construction activity is also noted near the airfield’s surface to air missile site.

To date, the west alert ramp near the new runway hosts up to three Guizhou Aircraft Corporation Xianglong “Soar Dragon” high-altitude, long endurance UAV. The China Daily reported in December 2016 that they would enter service soon. They arrived at the airbase in early August not long after China threatened military action to remove Indian troops from contested Bhutanese territory. A single CH-4, previously co-located on the ramp, arrived prior to the “Soar Dragon” but has since departed.

In an effort to downplay the recent tensions, Indian Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa, the Chief of Air Staff, remarked in September that Chinese airfields in Tibet lack requisite military infrastructure to carry out offensive operations. However, the two Chinese airfields closest to the Doklam standoff, Shigatse and Gonggar, both have weapons storage areas and Gonggar has a sizable above ground POL area. Both airfields continue to feature expanded infrastructure.

Bottom Line: China continues to develop capabilities in the Tibet Autonomous Region to support increased combat readiness and the means of putting additional pressure on neighboring India.

Posted in China, English, General Knowledge, Intelligence | Leave a comment